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Italy: Slow cauliflower sales, normal prices for broccoli

"The European consumption of broccoli has increased over the past few years and is expected to increase further in the future. Consumption of cauliflowers is instead stable," explains Gerardo Cannone (in the photo), an agronomist from Esasem spa, Sakata distributor in Italy. 

Mr Cannone works in Puglia and Basilicata, which produce 90% of the Italian broccoli. Italy is the second leading broccoli producer after Spain.

The produce is available between September and June. Such an extended calendar is due to soil and weather conditions as well as the genetic material.

Nowadays, there are varieties that make it possible to obtain flexible transplants and therefore flexible harvesting times. The season starts with Naxos (warm weather) and Parthenon (cold weather) or other cultivars such as Triton and Ares.

Cauliflowers are transplanted between late July and 5th September, while broccoli are transplanted between late July and 30th October and late January and 15th March. "Harvesting is carried out 50 to 240 days later for cauliflowers and 65 to 90 days later for broccoli depending on the variety. This year, quality has been impressive for broccoli, which are also a few days early." 

"On the foreign market, we have to deal not only with the Spanish produce, but also with local productions that consumers tend to prefer. Despite the higher quality, prices are what makes the difference." 

The main foreign market for broccoli and cauliflowers is Northern Europe. "The UK is the preferred destination for the Spaniards, so it is a rather difficult market for us due to the higher transport costs."

2017: A difficult start of the year but excellent quality
"Between late July and September, transplants were affected by drought. This meant more energy was required to prepare the soil and higher irrigation costs. Transplants have actually cost around €1,000 more per hectare this year. While it is true that broccoli and cauliflowers have less plants per hectare compared to salad or fennel, for example (20,000 for cauliflowers and 35,000 for broccoli against the 70,000 of fennel), it is a considerable amount."

Despite the difficulties regarding water and higher costs, quality is exceptional and is expected to remain so throughout December.

"On a commercial level, cauliflowers are going through a crisis while prices of broccoli are within the norm with a 30% drop in transplants. All of this while considering that Spain has gone and is going through a major water crisis."

"Everyone is hoping for December to be good as there is Christmas and as the lower temperatures will push consumption. Up until a few days ago, in fact, temperatures were above the seasonal average."

Gerardo Cannone - agronomist
Esasem spa, Sakata distributor for Italy
Cell.: +39 336 672757

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